WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – Just as senior US political figures—like Ryan Crocker, former ambassador to Iraq, and John Bolton, former ambassador to the UN, or Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer—are calling on the Trump administration to respect the results of last week’s Kurdistan Independence Referendum, Middle East experts in Washington increasingly are doing the same.
Michael Pregent, an Iraq expert at the Hudson Institute, recently returned from a visit to that country.Pregent told Kurdistan 24, “The American government should definitely support the [Kurdistan] referendum,” particularly as the results were 92% in favor of independence.
We should “support the part of Iraq that is working, and that’s Kurdistan,” he said.
The government in Baghdad is sectarian and dominated by Iran, in Pregent’s view. “Sunnis Kurds and Shiite nationalists in Iraq will tell you that the current Iraqi government is not a government for everyone,” he said.
“We’ve ceded Iraq to Iran,” Pregent lamented.
David Pollock of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, also traveled to Erbil to observe the referendum.
Pollock expects that the US will oppose any further steps that Baghdad tries to take against Erbil, as “we’ve already said that the closure of the airport is not constructive.”
“But the question really is at what level and how strongly” the US will say it “and do something about it,” he added. “I, personally, hope that a very senior American official, like President Trump, or Secretary of Defense Mattis, or Secretary of State Tillerson” will do so—and “strongly.”
Roy Gutman, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist who was based in Turkey for the past five years and now writes for The Daily Beast, spoke similarly.
“I think the US is going to have to say at some point that it does no good to isolate the people of the Kurdistan Region,” Gutman said. “The US needs them for many, many reasons,” he added, as does the rest of the world.
”Punishing them in this way is only going to have negative effects.”
Kurdistan 24 also spoke with Ilan Berman, Senior Vice-President of the American Foreign Policy Council. “Strategically, I think the case for recognition [of an independent Kurdistan] is sound,” Berman said.
An independent Kurdistan would “disrupt what is increasingly becoming contiguous Iranian access to Syria and from Syria to Lebanon,” he explained.
However, as Berman noted, the Trump administration “does not seem ready” for such a step. Nonetheless, it still has an important role to play. Above all, it is crucial that Washington “push back” against the threats to the Kurdistan Region that Iran, Iraq, and Turkey are all making.
Hillel Fradkin is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute and directs its Center on Islam, Democracy and the Future of the Muslim World, while he edits the journal, “Current Trends in Islamist Ideology.”
Like Berman, Fradkin emphasized that it was essential that the US take a strong stand against the threats from regional powers directed against the Kurdistan Region.
Editing by G.H. Renaud